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June 17, 2008 at 10:37 PM

Garcia’s coach speaks

Charles Garcia figures to go down as one of the most unknown of the players to have committed to UW since Lorenzo Romar took over as coach before the 2002-03 season.
So I thought it would be a good idea to talk with his coach at Riverside Community College, John Smith, to get a better feel for what kind of player the Huskies are getting in 2009. Garcia, who will be a sophomore at RCC this year, said on Sunday he will sign with UW in November and become a Husky for the 2009-10 season. Garcia committed after taking an unofficial visit to UW last weekend.
“He’s a great fit for coach Romar and his style,” Smith said. “He’s a mismatch for a lot of bigs and he’s a mismatch for a lot of wings because of his length and athleticism.”
Smith said Garcia “is a legitimate 6-10” and now weighs about 220 pounds.
That’s a far cry from where he was a few years ago, Smith said.
Garcia played at about 6-6 and well under 200 pounds as a senior at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles in 2006, Smith said, one reason he flew well under the recruiting radar. He was more of a perimeter player then, skills he has kept while adding inches and bulk.
“Nobody knew he was going to grow three or four more inches and continue to be that kind of a player,” Smith said.
Smith said he thinks Garcia had some interest from Nevada of what could be considered major schools, but that that was about it, which Smith said “just shows you how much he has grown and matured.”
“He was 6-5, 6-6 when he was in high school and graduated when he was just 17 years old,” said Smith, who is going into his fifth year at Riverside and in a previous stop coached former USC Trojan Jerry DuPree, who had a cup of coffee in the NBA. “He (Garcia) is by far the most skilled player I’ve had at this level,” Smith said.
With few other offers out of high school, however, Garcia decided to attend Sacramento State, spending one semester there as a full-time student, Smith said.
But Smith said Garcia struggled with being away from home for the first time and didn’t make it academically at Sac State.
“He was young,” Smith said. “He comes from a two-parent home with great parents. He’s the youngest in the family so he always had support. But being 17 and away from home for the first time, sometimes you don’t understand time management, and that kind of caught up with him. So yes, he struggled a little in the class room there. But he’s passed 35 units with us, so he’s capable of doing it.”
After leaving Sac State, he ended up at Riverside. The semester at Sacramento State, however, means Garcia will have just two years to play two seasons when he arrives at UW.
But Smith said he has little doubt Garcia will be able to make an immediate impact for the Huskies.
“He’s a gym rat,” Smith said. “He’s one of our hardest workers in practice. By the time he gets to Washington he’ll be ready. He’ll be beyond ready, I believe.”
Smith said the perimeter skills Garcia honed in his days as a smaller player continue to serve him well now that he’s grown.
“For us last year, he played the four and the five,” Smith said. “Next year he’ll be playing the three and sometimes the four because he’s just a mismatch on the blocks. But he’s probably our best ballhandler, so we’ll play him out on the wing a lot, as well.”
Smith also said that Garcia “has range out to the pro three-point line” though the Huskies will likely want him playing more on the inside than hanging out that far.
He should be better positioned to do that when he gets to UW, Smith said, saying Garcia weighed about 195 pounds when he arrived at Riverside before the 2007-08 season but has added about 25 pounds since then.
“He has worked his tail off,” Smith said. “He does yoga, Pilates and lifts weights. He’s doing a great job of getting his mind and his body where it needs to be. He can definitely put on more weight, and he will — he’s still only 19.”
That youth, and Garcia’s recent growth spurt, are added reasons Smith said the Huskies made the right move in locking Garcia up early.
“He was all-state last year as a freshman and we were 25-8” Smith said. “And I expect bigger and better things next year, so I think coach Romar did a great job recruiting him. It’s a great steal for them because I was starting to get calls from Memphis, Kentucky, Nebraska. San Diego State did a hell of a job of getting in there early and trying to recruit him. But I guess he just felt really comfortable with coach Romar when he went on his unofficial visit up there.”
One concern for UW fans might be that Garcia shot just 54 percent from the free throw line last season (though cynics would say that means he’ll fit right in with the current group).
Smith said he’s confident Garcia will get better at the line this season at Riverside.
“It has nothing to do with his mechanics,” Smith said. “It just has to do with his focus and maturity. He’s going to be fine there.”

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